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Why Is Mother’s Day Celebrated on Different Dates?

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In the UK Mother’s Day doesn’t have anything at all to do with mothers.  It was actually a special day for Christians to visit their “mother” church.  Their servants were given the day off to return home and worship with their families.  Wild flowers were picked on their way home by the youth to place in the church or to give to their mothers.  This event was started separately and not linked to religion in the US, but was dedicated completely to mothers.

Mother’s Day was established in 1914 in America because of campaigns by the mums’ groups that were established during the Civil War.  Anna Jarvis was the leader of this movement.  She campaigned for a May date in memory of her own mother who had died that month.

The date for Mother’s Day was formalized by President Wilson but later Anna became dissatisfied with the commercialization around Mother’s Day.  The original sentiment of love and family had been sacrificed for profit.  She believed that a printed card meant nothing except that you were too lazy to write to the woman who had done more for you than anyone else in the world. Many other countries have also adopted America’s date.

This is not a federal holiday and organizations, businesses and stores are all open, just as they are on any other Sunday in the year.  However, restaurants may have more business than usual as mother’s are being taken out to eat everywhere.

In 1870 Julia Ward Howe asked for Mother’s Day to be celebrated each year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women.  It was held in Boston for about 10 years under her sponsorship, but died out after that.

Anna Jarvis held a private Mother’s Day celebration in memory of her mother in 1907 in Grafton, West Virginia.  She organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs to improve the health and cleanliness in the area where she lived.  She launched a quest for Mother’s Day to be more widely recognized and her campaign was financially later supported by John Wanamaker, a clothing merchant from Philadelphia.

She was instrumental in arranging a service in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, that was attended by 407 children and their mothers.  The church is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine and a tribute to all mothers and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Not only has this day become a day to focus on mothers’ and mother figures’ roles, but has also become important for businesses in recent years.  This is especially so for restaurants and businesses manufacturing and selling cards and gift items.

In the U.S. Mother’s Day is held annually on the second Sunday of May towards appreciating motherhood.  The modern American-derived version of this day has been criticized for having become too commercialized.  Just remember that what’s in the heart is what counts.

Dr Fredda Branyon

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